The 2011 Game Rant Video Game Awards: Winners
For the 2011 Game Rant Video Game Awards, we've spent hours of consideration (and heated discussion) arriving at just one winner for each of the given categories. The complete list of award nominees shows that sometimes picking a winner can be an arbitrary distinction with such talent-packed rosters, but there can be only one. We are proud to present the winners of this year's awards.
Best New IP
- L.A. Noire (Team Bondi)
In an era of non-stop thrills, post apocalyptic mutants and space marine dudebros, it's hard to think of anything more outside the box than L.A. Noire. Bringing back a 1940s era detective story that had more in common with adventure games than action titles was a heck of a risk, but Team Bondi pulled it off beautifully.
The exceptional actor performances and the brand new technology used to bring those facial animations to life took us completely by surprise, and left us with raised expectations for cinematic games going forward. The studio fallout makes sequels unsure, despite public interest from Take-Two Interactive to do more with the property, but one dose of this series just isn't enough.
- Gears of War 3 (Epic Games)
Nearly every single major shooter franchise had a release in 2011, but there is simply no way to give anything but Gears of War 3 the nod. It's the shooter that most delivered on its potential and expectations, and is the one that has kept us coming back even months later.
The excellence of the series has never been in question since it premiered on the Xbox 360, and the team at Epic made good on their promise of bringing the trilogy to a satisfying close with revamped multiplayer. Despite launching on just one platform, Gears of War set a brand new benchmark for modern third-person shooters.
Best Sports Game
- NHL 12 (EA Canada)
The annual release cycle of most major sports titles may occasionally lead to complacency, but the developers of NHL 12 did the opposite with this year's must-play hockey title. With a brand new physics engine, expanded online leagues and the chance to play your way from junior hockey to the big leagues, EA Sports managed to outdo their past success yet again.
The result was the most realistic simulation of hockey ever created, and the team's commitment to advancement is something we hope to see all other sports developers adopt.
Best Driving/Racing Game
- Forza Motorsport 4 (Turn 10 Studios)
Once again there was no shortage of driving titles this year, but for serious fans of simulation racing, Forza Motorsport 4 was the one that simply had to be played. Whether it's the rabid online community, the improved visuals, or the team at Turn 10 showing that they know what kinds of details the hardcore looks for, Forza 4 has it all.
Without even mentioning the Kinect integration and brand new peripherals that were designed to optimize player experience, Forza Motorsport turned in yet another game to please the professional and amateur driver alike.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios)
When Bethesda releases a new role-playing experience, gamers everywhere take notice. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was no exception, delivering one of the largest and most completely-realized game worlds in the genre's history. With endless quests and dungeons, Skyrim offers an unlimited number of adventures to every player.
The same can be said for many of the RPGs released this year, but the sheer size and scope of the game is staggering, and the new approach to upgrades and player classes is something we hope to see more of.
Best Action/Adventure Game
- Batman: Arkham City (Rocksteady Studios)
With Batman: Arkham City, the crafty blokes at Rocksteady Studios managed to exceed the high expectations set by the surprise hit Arkham Asylum. The game's plot twists delivered one of the best Batman stories to date, and the developers built a melee combat system to match. While easy to grasp, the gadgets and attacks changed our perception of how how much depth a streamlined action game could offer.
Superheroes and comic books are more popular than ever, so we're bound to see more imitators soon. But until Rocksteady unveils their next game, all the competition will be measured against Arkham City.
- Rayman: Origins (Ubisoft Montpellier)
It isn't easy to beat some of the gaming industry's most prolific franchises at their own game, but Rayman: Origins did just that. Ubisoft showed that a console's power can be used to create a flawless side-scroller as well as photo-realistic shooters. Stunning visuals - thanks to Ubisoft's new graphics utility - lay the foundation of a unique and silky presentation that remains unmatched.
Simple side-scrollers may be somewhat overlooked in the modern gaming industry, but Rayman: Origins does what it does better than any other platformer this year.
Best Motion Controls
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo)
With more misses than success stories so far, no game perfectly demonstrated the potential of motion controls better than The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Aside from making every Nintendo fan's dream of embodying Link come true, the controls used for the game were as precise as they were intuitive.
Possessing a Zelda story as rich as any previous game and a brand new art style, the decision here was an easy one. While it may have come along at the end of the Wii's life-cycle, Skyward Sword is the best example of what motion controls make possible.
Best Indie Game
- Bastion (Supergiant Games)
Triple-A games are getting bigger and more expensive ever year, and so it falls to developers in the indie space to show that story and design have nothing to do with budget or scale. Bastion managed to deliver one of the most streamlined and stirring play experiences this year, despite an all-digital release and miniscule price tag.
The independent scene is only gaining momentum, but Supergiant Games made their first release count, releasing one of the greatest games the digital marketplace has ever offered.
Best Multiplayer Experience
- Gears of War 3 (Epic Games)
The great truth of video games is that playing with friends is always more fun, and 2011 was a good year for multiplayer. But with Gears of War 3 adding four player co-op throughout the entire campaign, an evolutionary step forward for Horde Mode, and a supremely polished multiplayer system, there was no competition.
While some multiplayer developers are happy to leave well enough alone, Epic showed their dedication to their fan base by improving nearly every facet of the game's online component, while at the same time adding a lot of new stuff for players to do. The result was profound, and the best option for fans of multiplayer mayhem.
- Batman: Arkham City (Rocksteady Studios)
It's hard to believe that there are still fantastic Batman stories to be told after seventy years of adventures, let alone as the plot of a video game. Comic book legend Paul Dini came up with a new Batman detective story that brought some of the most beloved enemies together for one of the caped crusader's worst nights ever.
Plot twists and a plethora of well-written sidequests aren't all that kept us on the edge of our seats, but the fact that every beat was written completely in the spirit of the source material. We'd hoped for a good plot, but Arkham City showed that one of Batman's best story arcs could take place in a video game.
- L.A. Noire (Team Bondi)
Full motion capture bridged the gap between film and games some years ago, but until L.A. Noire, the intricacies of the human face were too complex to properly imitate. Team Bondi didn't just translate facial performances on a higher level than we had ever seen before, but built gameplay around a player's ability to interpret the emotions being displayed.
Overnight our expectations for facial animation rose sharply, and every other studio hoping to create lifelike characters will need to catch up to L.A. Noire before we're impressed again.
Achievement in Artistic Design
- Rayman Origins (Ubisoft Montpellier)
While the mechanics and four-player co-op are what made Rayman: Origins a must-buy for families and the young at heart, it was the art design that many are sure to fall in love with. With visuals that are far more refined and inspired than any platformer needs to be, the art team at Ubisoft turned every new level into a feast for the eyes.
The illustrations only added to the ingenuity of each new world theme, such as music, spicy foods, and ice cubes to name just a few. It's not easy to find a new area to explore in the world of platformers, but the creativity behind Rayman: Origins' unique style is one of its best qualities.
Achievement in Technical Design
- Crysis 2 (Crytek Studios)
PC gamers know all too well the drama and hardware envy that comes with every major release these days, and few games melted as many graphics cards as this year's Crysis 2. Built to make full use of the entire set of DirectX 11 features, even serious PC gamers will need to drop some money to push the game to its maximum. Add in the ability to witness NVIDIA's 3D package in full 1080p and it's hard to think of a more potent showpiece.
Crysis 2's predecessor was long held as the perfect demonstration of a gaming rig's horsepower, and with the follow-up, Crytek Studios took that challenge to heart.
Game of the Year
- Portal 2 (Valve)
In case you were worried that Portal 2 would be lost in the shuffle of 2011 releases, have no fear. Not only are the complex physics puzzles, story twists and fantastic environments of the game fresh in our memory, but clearly at the top. Valve rarely disappoints, and with the best-written and wittiest script of any game this year, Portal 2 deserves more credit than we can give.
With a story that shocked and delighted, expanded puzzle mechanics that confounded and enlightened, and cross-platform play that more than set a precedent, Portal 2 stands at the front of a crowd of releases that showed what's possible in today's game industry. For science.
There were many great games this year and it wasn't easy for the Game Rant crew to select the winners. Our choices reflect our own opinions, so share your personal favorites of the year in the comments and what you think may have been overlooked!
For those wondering why Minecraft isn't nominated, despite being in beta form last year, it was included in our 2010 awards for being both an incredible independent and innovative game.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.